How To Stop Falling in Love with the Wrong Person

Falling In Love with the Wrong Person

Do you keep falling in love with the wrong person? If so, you’re not alone.

You’d be surprised at how many people come to us for life coaching, breakup recovery, individual therapy, or dating coaching, hoping to achieve one goal: Having a healthy relationship (and how to stop getting involved in unhealthy ones).

They show up to therapy or Denver dating coaching because they have, over time (or after the latest heartbreaking breakup), become aware that they are engaging in “non-ideal relationship patterns,” over and over again. They don’t want to be single anymore, but they keep falling in love with the wrong person. They keep getting involved with narcissists or people who treat them badly. They keep choosing emotionally unavailable men or aggressive, controlling women. Whatever the sad pattern is, they want it to stop.

Above all else, they want to work on themselves to heal, grow, and ensure that next time they get involved with someone, they can love and be loved in a healthy relationship with a good person. And so we dig in.

Why do you keep falling in love with the wrong person?

The first stop in figuring out why you keep falling in love with the wrong person is uncovering what unconscious motivations are driving your choices. 

Getting outside help in understanding your toxic relationship patterns can be a wise move, because of the entirely subconscious nature of the problem. You don’t consciously choose bad relationships — no one does. You choose what you feel, in the moment, are good relationships… and then wind up having bad experiences that often are mysteriously, eerily similar to the past experiences you thought you were trying to avoid…

Unhealthy relationship patterns can happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s old, unfinished emotional business from the past. Other times, your self-esteem or feelings of self-worth can get in the way. Yet other times, the root of the problem is embedded in the way you communicate or set boundaries with others. Because you are a complex, unique individual, your truth will not be exactly the same as everyone else’s.

Clarifying Your Values and Creating Relationship Guardrails

One of the most valuable and productive growth opportunities for dating coaching clients who are struggling with painful relationship patterns is getting clear about some basic things before they dive back into the dating pool: Questions like, what kind of relationship are you looking for? If it’s a loving, committed, long-term relationship, how are you communicating that to potential partners? Do you have boundaries in place that are intended to week out “situationships,” or any arrangement that is NOT what you want?

You should also be asking yourself what your values are, and how you’re selecting partners who align with those values. If you have historically chosen partners based on chemistry and attraction, you may not be giving much thought upfront to the deeper qualities that you need a partner to have in order to have a positive experience.

None of this is unusual — it’s just how growth works. We all stumble around in the dark, unaware of our patterns until they become clear to us, often quite painfully. This is especially true in relationships, where we’re all operating with some deep programming that’s far beneath the surface of the conscious mind! What matters is that, once you see your patterns, you can choose to change. No matter what age you are, or how many times you’ve been through the wringer in your love life. Just because you’ve functioned one way in the past does not mean you have to continue functioning that way, if you make an intentional choice to create change.

If you have fallen into unhealthy relationships again and again, I recommend sitting down with a notebook and brainstorming some guardrails for yourself. What boundaries will you set with future partners? What are some rules of behavior for how you will engage? What are some red flags that you will walk away from, no questions asked, and what are some green flags that you need to see before moving forward into an intimate relationship with someone?

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Guardrails like these not only protect your heart and your energy, they also help restore your trust in yourself, so that you can feel confident in your own ability to choose wisely the next time around.

How to stop falling in love with the wrong person

There is another very common thing that most people have done at least once, and which will almost always lead to heartbreak: falling victim to “Black Hat Love.” Learning how to spot the one fatal factor that makes you most vulnerable to getting involved in toxic relationships can help you stop the madness and finally create the happy, healthy relationship you’re longing for.

And that’s what I’ll be teaching you about on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast: How to Stop Falling in Love with the Wrong Person.

Have follow up questions for me? Leave them in the comments!

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How To Stop Falling in Love with the Wrong Person

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast.

[Intro: Bad Love by So Brown]

All right, that’s So Brown. They’re kind of a country folk-y thing out of Brooklyn. With their song ‘Bad Love’ which, as soon as I heard it, I knew was the song for our podcast today. Because we’re going to be talking about a really, really common problem. One way of overcoming it, which is toxic relationship patterns happening in your life. Falling in love with the wrong kinds of people, attracting the wrong people. The reason I wanted to talk about this today is because we have so many people coming into our practice for all kinds of stuff: dating, coaching, breakup, recovery, therapy, life coaching. But really, all of whom –many of whom– have a common goal, which is to have a happy, healthy, satisfying relationship, often after, sometimes years of the opposite of getting involved with different people and having the same kinds of unhappy, unsatisfying, crazy-making patterns coming up over and over again in their relationships. They show up and they say, “Why is this happening, and how do I fix it? Why do I keep falling in love with the wrong person?”

So that’s where we’re going on today’s edition of the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. I’m going to be offering you some new ideas that can help you prevent going to that same rodeo one more time and stop falling in love with the wrong person. Because you’ve been there. You don’t need to do it anymore. So before we launch in, if this is your first time listening to the show, thank you for being here. I’m so excited that you found us. I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, I’m the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. We’re based in Denver, Colorado, but we see clients all over the world through online video. We also have a lot of different programs and online classes and things that you can take to help with a variety of issues. That’s who I am. 

What this podcast is, a few years ago, I started just thinking about all of the people who aren’t ever probably going to come to us for counseling and coaching for a variety of reasons, and how I could still be helpful to them –to you, specifically– by putting good evidence-based information out into the world to help you. Because private counseling, private coaching is such a luxury and a lot of people can’t afford it, frankly. Or it’s not the right time. Or there can be stuff wrapped up around going to talk to somebody. So I’m coming to you anyway with my podcast. It’s a lot of fun. I hope that this podcast helps you. If you have specific questions for me or ideas for podcast topics in the future, things that you’re interested in, I want to know. I always want to make my podcasts relevant for you and what’s going on in your life. 

So the easiest way to do that–you can send come to our website, You can send us an email, Or also you can hop onto our blog. So for example, I have posts for all of these podcasts. We also have a lot of other articles and free advice. Come on in and join the conversation. We have a very active comment back-and-forth thing going on. Many people ask questions on the blog itself, and many of those I’ve been using in our podcasts. So that is one fun way. 

Also, you should know I read all of those comments and I answer all of them personally, too. So if I don’t answer your question on the podcast, there’s a chance that I might answer it on the comments section. You can also track me down on Twitter, Dr. Lisa Bobby, and Facebook, Dr. Lisa Bobby, as well. So come find me, ask me questions, and you just might get your question answered on an upcoming episode of this podcast, or in print in one of our blog articles. 

So, today’s topic (how to stop falling in love with the wrong person) is so near and dear to the hearts of many people. We’ve had questions coming in about this. I hope it resonates with you. What we’re going to be talking about is one of the biggest reasons that you may be having disappointing relationship experiences over and over and over. First of all, before we move on, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I think that in practically everybody’s life. At one point, there comes a moment, if you’ve had a couple of these relationships in a row where you think to yourself, “Okay, I can’t do this anymore.” And, and it could be a number of different things. Maybe, you have realized belatedly that you keep getting in touch with or getting involved rather with the same type. Maybe, it’s a narcissistic person or some, you find yourself getting treated badly over and over again. Or maybe it’s the classic, emotionally unavailable man that won’t commit to you. Or maybe, controlling woman’s lash man. Whatever it is, but you’ve become aware of this, and you’re thinking, “Okay, I need to be done.” Your hope, like those of so many of our clients, is just to figure out, “Okay, what am I not thinking about? What am I unintentionally doing when I get to these situations, that is creating this pain and misery over and over and over again? Why do I keep falling in love with the wrong person?” 

The first thing that I just want to be very clear about is that when it comes to you specifically, I don’t have the answer to that. Because this is such a unique thing. We all wind up doing patterns in our lives. But the reason why we have our patterns is always specific and unique to you. Because you are a totally unique individual. You have life experiences that no one else in the world has ever had, and all of your personality and what’s happened, the things you’ve learned, that all conspires to make you just one of a kind. 

I just bring that up because I’m going to be giving some very general advice that may apply to what you’re going through, because this is a very common issue. But I also want to stress that, in my experience, we all have our blind spots. We all have things about ourselves that we don’t even know we don’t know about. What is motivating us? Why we feel the way we do? Why we’re attracted to certain things? Why we avoid others? It’s so hard to dig into this and get underneath it and understand it by yourself, because it’s almost like you don’t even know what questions to ask yourself. 

So over the course of this podcast, in addition to providing you with information about one big mistake that people often make that land themselves in this situation, I’m also just going to be giving you some questions, things for you to think about, maybe go journal about, that can help you get more specific into, “Okay, what is going on here?” Is it related to family of origin stuff, unfinished business there, or old experiences with first boyfriend/girlfriends that shaped you or impacted you? And how you move forward. For some people, it’s the way that you communicate. It can be the way that you set boundaries with other people that makes you more susceptible to having these kinds of relationship patterns come in. 

So I just, I bring this up before we kind of launch into our main topic here because I don’t want to leave you feeling like there’s only one thing or one truth. Because that’s never true. I wish it was, it would be so much easier to just dispense advice and have it be true for everyone. So anyway, as you’re listening to this, I want you to think about the parts that are true for you, and the other parts of like, “Okay, so why?” And your own individual life experiences, so that you can start shining a flashlight on some of that self-discovery. Even though –and I’ll ask you some questions– but even though I know that’s hard to do, because I think that’s one of the primary benefits of private counseling and coaching, is you have somebody sitting across the room from you to helping you see things, ask you questions that make you go places where, when left to your own devices, maybe, you don’t think of. Just because that’s not currently in your awareness. 

And also, you may want to check out some of the self-discovery tools that I’ve created that can also give you some hints on helping you uncover your own blind spots. If you go to, I’ve put together a quiz that walks you through what kinds of hidden obstacles might be holding you back and getting in the way and showing up in your life. The reason that I bring this up again, is because whenever we are engaging in patterns –be it in our relationships in the way we conduct ourselves, our habits, whatever it is– if there’s something that has you thinking,  “Oh, I can’t keep doing this, I don’t know why I keep doing this,” it’s because there is a shadow side driving the bus. You have to get in touch with that shadow side and understand it in order to be able to make changes. 

With that being said, that you are a unique individual, and you have stuff going on inside of you, that will always be just you, I would like to share with you something that I have learned over the course of my experience, both as a counselor, dealing with people coming in with this exact thing over many, many years. “Why do I keep getting myself into these situations?” This really also started to tie in with the research and the work that I began doing, as I was working on my breakup recovery book, Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love

As I was doing the research for this book, I really dove into a lot of the biological underpinnings of love. How does it actually operate on a physiological level? It’s odd to think about love and relationships impacting us physically, chemically. However, the science is very, very clear. Love is akin to a drug. There are neurological pathways that you have in your brain that are specifically designed for establishing and maintaining relationships, which is completely understandable when you look at us as biologically driven animals, just like anything else on Earth, which is that we are a species that is built for survival, survival of the species. And as human beings, we are not just collective, but we are built to bond with other people and establish primary relationships, and so that we can have babies and families and grow those babies up into adults that go on to have families and reproduce too. 

I know that not everybody’s path is to have children and be biologically bonded to an opposite-sex person, and it doesn’t need to be. But even if you are gay or lesbian, you still have all of these hardwired biological drives that bond you to another person. These things happen with or without your consent. None of us have a lot of control over it because it is a biologically based drive. However, understanding some of the vulnerabilities and some of the biological proclivities that these systems created us can give you the upper hand, particularly when it comes to avoiding negative relationship patterns. 

What this really comes down to is what I’ve talked about on past episodes of this podcast, which is that relationships, romantic relationships are, by nature, addictive. And it is possible to either get addicted to a healthy, happy, functional person that you become emotionally bonded to and who is able to love you back. And in that sense, being ‘addicted’ is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. You have become welded together and that is beautiful and everybody’s happy for you. 

It is also possible to become addicted to an unhealthy person who is not able or willing to love you back in the way that you need and want to be loved. That is the operational process that is happening when you are having these relationship patterns over and over and over in your life, is that you are essentially becoming addicted or falling in love to the wrong person, to the wrong type of person. 

Here’s the big secret that I’m going to let you in on. Unfortunately, the most unhealthy, unhappy, unstable relationships with no hope for ever being healthy relationships, believe it or not, those are the relationships that are most addictive. I know it’s terrible. You would think it would be the other way around. But relationships that are probably not good for you, they’re like the chocolate ice cream or the cigarettes of relationships. Unhealthy choices are the ones that you may be subconsciously drawn to over and over again. 

There is a reason for this, a biologically based reason for this. When you think about the key experiences of romantic love, which are early-stage romantic love, you feel anxious about somebody that you’re getting to know. “Oh, she’s gonna call me back. Does he like me? What’s going on?” And also, intrusive thinking. So when you have a crush on somebody, or you go out with somebody that you like, and you’re thinking about them later that night or this morning, they’re digging the roots into your mind. But those two ingredients, anxiety and intrusive thinking, they are what starts to turn on this biologically based, romantic love feeling. 

As every grande coquette uses to her advantage, knowing that when love is blocked, or there’s an obstacle, or the person that you’re attracted to runs hot and cold, it makes the anxiety higher. It makes you think about that person more, and it’s a more intense experience when you’re preoccupied with the state of your relationship or worried that your love isn’t reciprocated. Or if you’re fearful that the connection is being threatened by something: a chaotic, emotionally unavailable or inconsistent, non-communicative person. You would think, intellectually, that at that point, you’d be, “Oh, no. Nevermind. You’re really not a good person. I don’t want to do this with you.” However, when you have started already feeling those feels for someone, when they start to behave in a way that makes you feel anxious and upset, it actually increases that biological urge, because your dopamine and your brain surges, serotonin drops, and you feel love much more vividly. I just want you to know, this is not me making things up. This is stuff that has been measured.

Dr. Helen Fisher, you may have heard me speak about her research in the past. I think I just replayed an old episode of me and her on the last edition of the podcast. But she has done brain scans of people going through these things, and is able to measure how vividly their brains light up when they’re going through this experience. But the punchline here is, for you, is that ironically, when you are romantically attracted to somebody who gives you mixed signals, who is charming and passionate and exciting, sometimes but who also tends to be selfish, or who’s demanding or who gets upset and threatens to reject you, or who is inconsistent. It raises your anxiety and it raises your passion. Even if you’re getting angry with them, it still digs those hooks in deeper because anger and fear are very, very tightly intertwined with these neurological underpinnings of love that I’m talking about. They occupy the same patch of real estate in your brain. 

What that means is that relationships that are the most frustrating and tumultuous are often the ones that are most fascinating and most irresistible to us. This is one of the reasons why illicit affairs are so uniquely intoxicating. And why people can get so messed up by affairs is because, think about it. They are fraught with obstacles and adversity and uncertainty. Relationships that begin as affairs create a perfect storm of anxiety and romantic frustration that unleash a passion of a magnitude that rarely occurs in a secure, solid predictable relationship. It just can’t compare until, of course, the relationship, the affair is over, and people might actually be living together and dating more normally or getting married. Then they will begin to experience something that feels a lot more like the relationship that they left. 

You just can’t replicate those feelings outside of that emotionally fraught, dangerous heightened state. It doesn’t happen. And so similarly, attractions to people who are not emotionally safe or emotionally available can also elicit these feelings of feverish desire that again stable, consistently present partners never incite. The intensity of the experience that people have in these unhealthy contexts, may lead them to believe that the relationships themselves are more special or important or meaningful in the moment until of course, again, the situation stabilizes. Oftentimes, in the cold light of day, after people move through that early-stage romantic love part of a relationship, which is a stage. They find themselves attached to a person who may not be a satisfying or desirable long-term partner. They think, “Okay, here I am again.” 

So, here is the point, is that when people confuse feelings of that intense romantic craving, that obsession, people want to call it butterflies or chemistry or whatever you will, they may find themselves repeatedly frustrated, and heartbroken by ultimately toxic relationships. Sadly, people who are really seeking that intensity of passionate love without understanding that it is heightened and fueled by fear and uncertainty. Also, with what they really want, what they tell me they want is a secure, stable relationship. 

What happens in practice is that they might often dismiss, out of hand, a new partner or somebody that they go out on a couple of dates with, who is generous, emotionally available, thoughtful, reliable, they’re nice, they call when they say they’re going to call. These potential partners often get dismissed due to a ‘lack of chemistry’. “He just didn’t give me butterflies.” Or, “Yeah, I don’t know, she wasn’t that hot.” That’s what I hear in sessions after some clients go on dates with nice people. 

Healthy relationships, the relationship that people tell me they want –the secure, stable, long lasting thing– it just doesn’t inflame crazed passions, the way that unstable relationships do. They’re just not as addictive. That is the idea that I wanted to share with you, because many, many people that I’ve worked with will, literally in our sessions for dating coaching, say, we’ll walk through the steps of,  “Okay, tell me about your ideal partner.” And it is somebody who is reliable and thoughtful and fun and cares about me and that I can really talk to, is interesting, and we can go do fun stuff together. I would like to get married and have kids. Somebody who’s like marriage-minded and has good values.” Then he or she will go out with that person and come back and just say, “No, no.” Then go out on a date with some demented, hot chick or the guy who drinks too much and rides a motorcycle. And would not be a good partner. Or get involved in an affair and get so twisted around this. Because of the way that it makes you feel. 

I know that this can be hard ideas to talk about. Just for the record, I believe in love. I really, really do. And so I don’t want you to think that I’m saying that you can’t have chemistry or that you can’t feel excited about someone. But I do want you to know that the people that you feel chemistry with, there is always going to be an element of danger and anxiety with those. Sometimes, you can meet and fall in love with an interesting person who is sexy and exciting and does make you feel those butterflies and who is also a decent human being that has character and isn’t going to mess with you and hurt you. 

However, if you have noticed that you’ve been in these patterns over and over and over again, I would encourage you to really get clear around what it is that you are looking for in a relationship, and then going back over those past relationships that haven’t been working out the way that you’ve wanted to. What have you actually been attracted to? Many times it is sexual energy and anxiety, and that chemistry feeling that may have nothing to do with whether or not somebody is going to really be a good and reliable partner for you. 

That is not true love, that romantic feeling is not true love. In the early stages of a relationship, if that is what is motivating you to get more involved with someone, you really might want to check yourself. Because in my experience, and I think you’ll agree when you think about this, what true love really is, is caring about someone else as much as you care about yourself. True love is not a feeling at all. It is showing up, and it’s being loyal and it’s sacrificing. It’s being generous for the benefit of another human being. That kind of love has nothing to do with those romantic feelings. True love is even more transcendental and gorgeous than that early-stage of romantic love. 

I hope you don’t think I’m taking that away from you. I want you to be happy and excited and on fire for someone. And the final destination of true love in a really committed relationship is so much more amazing than anything that you can’t even imagine in that first stage of romantic infatuation. So this idea, as I mentioned, may not be the answer to all your problems. You might not be vulnerable to that butterfly excitement experience. That might not be why you are having these relationship patterns happen in your life. As I mentioned, there can be other reasons. But I would like to encourage you. I’m going to give you an assignment that I give to many of my private clients. And also, in a much more structured format in my breakup recovery program, and also our dating coaching program. If you’re interested, you can learn more about both of those on our website

But in both of those, with different twists, part of this is, what are, what do you want? What kind of relationship do you really want to have in your life? And also, getting clear around in the past. What have you actually done? And really taking the time to sink down into your own experience. And ask yourself some of those hard questions around. “I had a feeling. I had a bad feeling when we first started dating. I felt uneasy. Yet, I didn’t listen to myself and I just kept going. Why was that?” That in itself can be a very, very enlightening question. 

Or other things specific to you. “I didn’t say something when I should have and then XYZ happened.” Or at the very least, “What did I learn from these past experiences when I think back to my last three girlfriends, and I write down the story? What were the common elements?” If you want to get really deep and shrinky with yourself, “Is this familiar? Does something about these three women remind me of? Oh, I don’t know, my mother.” I mean, those kinds of questions to help yourself just get clear. 

Because when you understand yourself, when you understand the unconscious forces that are creating mayhem in your life, once you understand what they are, then you can make decisions to consciously do something different the next time. And it might not feel as natural. I mean, you might have to coach yourself through moments. And you might seem, “Oh my gosh, that guy is so hot. But I know when I feel this way, it doesn’t end well. So I think I’m probably not going to go out with him, and instead, I’m going to go out with that really nice guy that I had a lot of fun with. I’m just going to give him a little bit more time to see where that goes. Because he seems like a healthy person that I could have a good relationship with.” It’s literally having those kinds of inner conversations with yourself. 

So I hope that these ideas have helped you. I hope that if nothing else, they’ve just been new ideas. You can put them in the hopper. Think about it. And maybe do some experimentation. Do some journaling. Ask yourself some of those questions. And hopefully, have some new experiences in the future. 

So thank you, as always, for listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. Oh, hey, if you liked this podcast, if it was helpful to you, do me and other people a huge favor and go on iTunes or Stitcher wherever you hear this. And rate it and leave a review. It’s not for me. It’s because other people in their moment of need will be more likely to find it if the podcast has an endorsement from you. So on behalf of them, thank you for paying that forward and taking the time to do that. And I’ll be back in touch with you next time on the next episode. Bye, bye.

[Outro Song]

Episode Highlights:

  • Identifying Your Blind Spots
    • Each person’s blind spots are unique.
    • We tend to have one type of person we tend to ‘fall for’
    • Take the quiz in to assess what your blind spots are. 
  • Avoiding Toxic Relationships
    • Studies have shown that it’s the more unreliable relationships that are most addicting.
    • This is because relationships like these trigger our bodies’ production of hormones that make us feel ‘in love’
    • Remember to keep what you are looking for in a partner front and center when you are dating.

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